Digital Innovations
Working In Cross Platform Environments

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"Sometimes I feel like f/5.6 in a f/2.8 world."
--Gene Jones

Regardless of which computer platform you work on, sooner or later someone will hand you a disk--or removable media cartridge--containing image files designed for that "other" computer system. Digital photographs can be saved in an often bewildering variety of file formats including PICT, TIFF, BMP, or PCX, along with some files unique to Windows or the Mac OS. Photographers who keep a foot in Windows and Macintosh environments need software utilities that will allow them to move seamlessly between both of them.

When moving graphic files back and forth between Mac OS and Windows computers, the first tool you'll need is a utility that will allow your computer to read disks formatted for that other machine. Apple Computer includes a copy of PC Exchange software with every recent issue of their operating system--including Mac OS 8.5. PC Exchange lets your computer read disks formatted for Windows, including CD-ROMs and removable media cartridges from Iomega's Zip and Jaz drives. DataViz's new MacOpener 4.0 package does the reverse for Window users by giving them access to Mac OS-formatted floppy disks, CD-ROMs, and removable media. MacOpener is completely transparent and lets you read and write to a Mac OS floppy disk without triggering the typical, annoying, error messages.

After you can open a "foreign" disc or disk, the next step in the file translation process is having software that will allow your computer to convert files into a format that your computer can use. DataViz also announced Mac-LinkPlus Deluxe, which lets Macintosh users convert Mac OS text and image files into their Windows equivalents and vice versa. The new program allows you to view and print virtually any file type. For Windows users, DataViz offers their new Conversions Plus 4.5, which also includes a copy of MacOpener, allowing users to convert and use files--no matter where they came from. For more information on DataViz's interconnectivity software, call (800) 733-0030 or visit their web site at: www.dataviz.com.

Plug-In Of The Month. This month's choice is Extensis' PhotoTools 3.0. The latest version of PhotoTools is a major upgrade over previous versions and includes a set of tools that help you produce attractive images for use on the World Wide Web or anywhere else. The package includes a collection of special effects tools for texture making, button building, custom beveling, shadow casting, and even GIF animation. The New PhotoGroove tool, for example, includes a Bevel Shape Editor that lets you produce effects that appear to be on an image's surface and allows you to reproduce different materials, such as rubber, plastic, metal, and chrome. The PhotoTexture tool produces an infinite variety of textures, while ensuring they have seamless edges. The plug-in's PhotoBars feature provides a Microsoft Word-like tool bar that gives you access to all of Photoshop's commands within a customizable button bar. Some of the tools from previous versions, such as PhotoGlow, PhotoEmboss, and PhotoBevel, let you add text effects to your images that are not otherwise possible. PhotoTools 3.0 is available for the Mac OS as well as Windows 95/98 and Windows NT 4.0. If you want to know more about PhotoTools or to download a demo version of the plug-in, visit Extensis' web site at: www.extensis.com.

Big Bucks For Big Images. Phase One announced a new single shot digital camera back called the LightPhase, which features an image resolution of 2000x3000 pixels and produces file sizes of 18MB in 8-bit and 36MB in 16-bit color depth. The rectangular 24x36mm image capture area, with rotation feature, allows the camera to be used in portrait (vertical) and landscape (horizontal) modes. The LightPhase produces enough information to print high quality images at sizes larger than 8.5x11". The back's 48-bit internal data path combines with a 14-bit analog to digital converter to provide detail in shadow and highlight areas along with a higher contrast range than is possible with film. The LightPhase has an ISO equivalent of 50, a dynamic range of 11 f/stops, and supports Hasselblad's full equipment line--including the 555ELD. The back supports Macintosh and Windows platforms. With a price tag of $22,990, the LightPhase is not for the financially faint of heart, but if you need the image quality of film with the convenience of digital, it's worth a look. More information is available by e-mail at: info@phaseone.com.

Smaller Bucks, Smaller Images. For under $500, Fuji's new MX-500 digital camera delivers 24-bit color images at a resolution of 1280x1024 pixels. The camera uses a 4MB removable SmartMedia card for image storage and offers an optional Floppy Disk Adapter that lets you transfer images to your computer via its floppy disk drive. A f/3.2 Autofocus Fujinon lens has macro capabilities down to 3.5" and offers shutter speeds from 1/4 sec to 1/000 of a sec. The camera's built-in flash has four settings (on, off, auto, and redeye reduction) along with five different white balance settings to handle various color temperature lighting. A 1.8" LCD preview screen is built-in, but it can be switched off to save the AA batteries that power it. For more information, call (800) 800-3854 or visit Fuji's web site at www.fujifilm.com.

Fast Camera Downloads. ActionTec Electronics' new CameraConnect Pro makes it easy for photographers to access images from digital cameras. When connected to your computer's parallel port, the CameraConnect Pro can read data stored on image cards from digital cameras and transfer data up to 50 times faster than through typical serial port connections. The card reader is compatible with ATA Flash PC, CompactFlash, and SmartMedia cards with up to 16MB capacity. User upgradable software drivers ensure compatibility with future advancements in high capacity Smart- Media. This device can help photographers in several ways. First, you don't have to keep connecting and reconnecting a cable between your camera and computer. Second, photographers doing special events photography will be able to treat their removable media like "digital film" and load a fresh card into their camera, while their assistant downloads the images from the card already full of digital photographs. The Camera-Connect Pro doesn't require an external power supply and may be "hot swapped" without shutting down your system. Indicator LEDs show operational status, power, and data transfer mode. It's compatible with Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT. ActionTec Electronics can be reached via the Internet at: www.actiontec.com or by phone at (408) 752-7700.

New Ink Jet Printer. Hewlett-Packard announced that their new top of the line DeskJet 895C ink jet printer will sell for $399. The 895C can print black and white output at 10 pages per minute (ppm) and six ppm in color. The DeskJet 895C uses HP's Photo Resolution Enhancement color-layering technology to blend ink droplets, allowing users to produce photo quality output without having to sacrifice output speed. Best of all, the DeskJet 895 produces photo-realistic output on any kind of paper, but the output I saw on HP's own Premium Photo paper was stunning. The printer offers parallel and Universal Serial Bus connections. With the optional HP JetDirect 170X print server, the printer can be connected to a network. For more information call (800) 752-0900 or visit HP's web site at: www.hp.com.

The Paper Choice.
One of the best ways to improve the photographic quality of any ink jet printer is to use the best paper you can. New kinds of ink jet paper is being introduced, not by printer manufacturers, but by independent companies giving digital photographers the same kind of choices in the paper they use that darkroom workers have had for years. One of the newest entries into the ink jet paper market is Pictorico, which offers five different products, including Photo Glossy paper, OHO Transparency Film, Canvas, Adhesive Film, and Pastel-Colored Card Stock Paper. The secret of the paper's quality lies in a transparent layer of uniform, ultra-fine ceramic particles that are coated onto a paper that has regularly shaped pores to enhance ink absorption. The Photo Glossy is not really "glossy" the way that some papers are and features a soft finish that reminds me more of Ilford's "Pearl" finish darkroom papers. The paper also has some heft to it and feels almost as heavy as double-weight silver-based photographic paper. The paper is supposed to be water-resistant and to check their claims, I printed one of my test images, took it to the kitchen, and ran water over it. The result? The ink did not run; no kidding. What's more the output featured bright, saturated colors that more closely matched what I see on my monitor than other ink jet papers I've tried. More information can be found on the Internet at: www.pictorico.com or call (888) 879-8592.

Luminos Photo Corp., better known as a producer of papers used in conventional darkrooms, is bringing their 50 year's experience to digital output with the production of a family of 11 different Lumijet ink jet photographic papers. The papers run from Glossy, Pearl, and double-sided matte paper surfaces to a series of textured papers that includes canvas paper, canvas cloth, and even Belgian linen. Like their darkroom equivalents some papers are available in double-weight, fiber-base photo grade media. The company also offers a mirror finish silver paper and a high gloss opaque white film. The quality of the output on my Epson Stylus Color 850 was impressive on the Glossy paper and the Canvas paper produced the best results I've gotten from any textured paper, including expensive water color purchased at artist's supply stores. For more information about Lumijet ink jet media, contact Luminos Photo at (800) 586-4667 or visit their web site at www.luminos.com.

Label Those Discs. Like many photographers I use CD-Recordable disks for delivering digital images to clients and publishers. Most discs have space allowing you to write caption information or notes, and I usually do so with a Sanford Sharpie. Even though Sharpies are supposed to write on anything, some CD-Rs don't take ink as well as others. I was surprised to learn that marker inks will eventually corrode a CD's optical surface allowing the reading laser to burn through and corrupt the data stored on the disc. The best way to prevent this was to apply a label to the disc, which will also add a little stiffness to the thin CD-R. Neato, a company that makes media labeling products, now offers MediaFace label design software for use with Mac OS or Windows computers. Along with the software, the company includes a label applicator with several sheets of labels that are compatible with any ink jet or laser printer. If you're tired of writing on your discs and want to protect the data that's on them, contact Neato at (800) 984-9800 or visit their web site at: www.neato.com.

Fulfilling Your Fantasies.
ArcSoft recently introduced their new Photo-Fantasy 2.0 software that lets Windows users combine their own personal photographs with a wide selection of fantasy backgrounds. The software includes powerful masking tools that let you combine your images with the built-in templates to create humorous and fantasy images. A text tool lets you add a message or caption to each image. The package includes 200 fantasy backgrounds including fictional characters, sport and Olympic heroes, trading cards, comic strips from the 1950s, along with "bathing beauties" and "muscle men." Users can insert their own faces, along with a friend, spouse, or significant other to make group fantasies that include up to three people. ArcSoft's "skin match" button automatically matches skin tones from your personal photographs with the selected fantasy. The package includes brightness, contrast, and saturation adjustments for improving the appearance of the final fantasy. PhotoFantasy 2.0 costs $49.95. For more information, contact ArcSoft at (800) 762-8657 or visit their web site at: www.arcsoft.com.

Monitor Technology. There's no doubt that the days of big, heavy, heat producing monitors are numbered. New flat screen monitors are being introduced and their price points have finally started to put some downward pressure on traditional CRT monitors which have, up to this time, resisted the same kind of price reductions that have affected other areas of computing and digital imaging. Intergraph Computer Systems has fired the latest canon in the battle of the screens. Their new InterView 17fp15 flat-panel color monitor uses LCD technology to display true color, high-resolution graphics at higher contrast than traditional flat-panel displays. The InterView 17fp15 uses the full display area of the monitor, providing a workspace equivalent to a 17" CRT monitor, but requiring only 1/3 the desktop space. The monitor has a 140° horizontal viewing angle, hard coat antiglare finish, 16.2 million pixel color depth, and complies with industry standards for ergonomics, emissions, electromagnetic radiation, and energy efficiency. The InterView 17fp15 lists for $1235 and doesn't require a special video card to operate. For more information, contact Intergraph at (800) 763-0242 or visit their web site at: www.intergraph.com/ics.

Mac OS System Software Improvements. As I was completing this month's column, Apple Computer launched Mac OS 8.5. Because of my early experience with OS 8, I had only installed it on one of my computers, preferring to keep my workhorse machine running Version 7.6.1. Throwing caution to the wind I installed OS 8.5 on the Power Computing Mac OS compatible that does most of the work around my office. I was surprised and amazed with how smooth and trouble-free the transition went. The good news is that OS 8.5 appears to run faster than previous versions. The bad news is that Apple does not "officially" support OS 8.5 on Mac clones, but Peter Lowe, Mac OS product line manager, stated that it should run on those systems "as long as clone vendors stuck to the specification." This statement has got to send a chill down the spines of those of us who own Mac OS compatibles and signals a time when future OS releases will not run on clones at all. In the meantime, I'm enjoying the productivity enhancements found in the latest OS upgrade and urge Mac users to upgrade now. For more information about Mac OS 8.5, visit the company's web site at: www.apple.com.

If you have already upgraded to OS 8.5 or are planing to do so, you should download a free copy of PolyMorph Software's Prestissimo 1.0.1 utility from the company's web site. Prestissimo offers a comprehensive adjustment of previously hidden options in Mac OS 8.5. The application uses an easy to use interface onto some of the new options including switching applications via the keyboard, displaying a floating palette with all the running applications, and fine adjustment of the appearance of scroll bars. Prestissimo controls all of Mac OS 8.5's new features, so you don't have to combine two or more applications to produce the same result. The utility offers instant feedback combined with single click restoration of defaults, which makes it ideal to tinker with the new features without fear. For more information about Prestissimo, visit the company's web site at: www.polymorph.net.

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